Policy and Research News, Thought Leadership

Dr. T Comments on New Long Covid Brain Fog Research

Long Covid Brain Fog

An article published in Cell in October may offer more information on long COVID brain fog. Scientists may have uncovered a possible explanation for some of long COVID’s most stubborn and persistent symptoms like memory loss, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. 

Researchers’ first clue was a lack of serotonin in the blood of individuals with long-COVID symptoms. This helped them to diagnose those who were suffering from persistent symptoms post infection. Their hypothesis suggests that COVID viral remnants remain in the gut. There, they reduce serotonin and affect communication between the vagus nerve and the brain. Correlated symptoms could be due to a subsequent autoimmune response.  This type of research identifying the mechanisms behind long-COVID is important for informing future clinical trials, which could offer possible treatment solutions. A story by NPR explains how these findings relate to long Covid brain fog in an understandable way.

Commentary from Dr. T 

Mary Tuchscherer, DC, PhD, chair of the Chiropractic Basic Sciences Department, shares her thoughts on the research: 

“It has long been understood that the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems are intimately connected. It was very insightful for the researchers to have considered that the gut connection to the brain may have a route through the vagus nerve. This nerve provides the strongest sensory and parasympathetic motor connection from the GI system to the brainstem.   

There are other instances where the gut either acts as a viral reservoir or creates an immune response that creates a secondary disease. For example, post infectious IBS. We also know that IBS exhibits emotional dysfunction like depression and anxiety, and cognitive impairment like “brain fog”. Perhaps, as the researchers suggest, this gut-vagus-brainstem-cerebrum route is similar for long-COVID.  

I think this is very important for chiropractors to investigate, given the anatomical relationship between the atlas and the jugular foramen (the opening through which the vagus nerve enters the cranium) and the nodose ganglion, which is the sensory ganglion of the vagus nerve.”   

This work reported in Cell was conducted on mice. More work is needed on the implications of long-COVID in human models.  

Story by Kit Harlow, Chiropractic Student